Computer keyboardby Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter 5/1996

“Have you ever sent a fax… From the beach? Have you ever checked out of the supermarket a car load at eight? Have you renewed your drivers license at a cash machine?”

“You will,” the commercial informs us, “and the company that will bring it to you will be AT&T”

Things sure do change rapidly. Adults over 13 are already saying things like, when I was a kid we didn’t have CDs or VCRs or ATM machines.

The amount of technological growth in the last 10 years has been astounding, and most items have benefited us greatly.

Most of us depend on and use modern technology every day to do our jobs. There is no question hat all of this technology makes us more efficient. Unfortunately, in many cases, that new technology also takes away our leisure time.

Basically, many technological breakthroughs have a downside. Consider the car phone, a miracle of modern technology that makes our lives much more convenient and safe. But think of the cost to our privacy: now, anyone can reach you any time. And who among us has not had a near accident because someone was talking on a car phone and not paying attention to the road?

Also consider the Internet and World Wide Web. Their research and information capabilities boggle the mind. Their entertainment possibilities are endless. But they too, come with a downside. High phone bills and connection costs. Kids accessing cyberporn and talking to dangerous strangers. More information than you could ever possibly need.

Beepers? Indispensable for people in many professions, but wearing one guarantees a complete lack of privacy. Anyone can reach you anywhere, anytime.

Fax machines? Also indispensable, but now things reach us immediately. We can no longer wait for messages. There is no time to catch a breath.

As a culture our nation seems obsessed with doing things faster and faster. Work, once an eight hour a day commitment, is now a 24 hour of session. Look at the number of commercials on television right now that tell us 9-to-5 isn’t good enough anymore and business as usual will put you out of business.

We can always be reached. We can never relax or get away from it all. We’re not allowed to. There’s no time to play. How can we relax when there’s so much to do? How can we make time to take a vacation?

No wonder where stressed!

No one except maybe the uni-bomber would argue that we should eliminate any of these technological tools – most really do make us more efficient and many have dramatically improved our lives – but it’s important to remember that all of these tools are just that – tools. They should not rule our lives.

It’s important to try to strike a balance between all these electronic tools and the real world. Not letting ourselves and rest and recharge me make us more productive in the short-term, but eventually leads to burn out.

While most people who carry a beeper cannot simply shut it off, there are still steps we can take to get out of the technology mode for the evening or weekend. If possible, try not to let the technology leisure stealers intrude on your “rest” time. Try one or more of the following:

When you’re at home, don’t check the messages at work when you really don’t have to.

When you use voicemail leave a detailed message including when you can be reached rather than playing “telephone tag.” If you’re not “on call” shut off the car phone. Use it only in an emergency, or to confirm plans.

If you’ve been on the computer all day at work, don’t get back online as soon as you get home. On the Internet, be conscious of the time you are spending in cyberspace.

Remember that you couldn’t possibly assimilate all that information in 10 lifetimes. Just as you try to shield your children from certain television programs, monitor who your child might be talking to on the net (or what Internet sites they may be visiting).

If the item isn’t urgent sent it by regular mail instead of the fax. You’ll save a little money and have time to catch your breath before the person you sent it to calls you.

When you go on vacation, leave the laptop and the electronic organizer at home.

Actually visit friends instead of relying on email and the phone to communicate with them.

Continue to remind yourself that technological tools should make your life easier, not more stressful.

Above all it’s important to keep perspective. The computer age is still in its adolescence, and all this technology will keep getting smaller and faster. New timesavers will appear on a regular basis.

The Internet is about to dramatically alter everything we know about business and communications.

Many new technologies will make our lives better. This is a very exciting time to live in!

The key to not being overwhelmed by all of it is to try to find that personal balance between using these terrific new timesavers without becoming slaves to them. Drawing a clear line between work and rest is a good place to begin.

Have you ever sent a fax… From the beach?

Why on earth would you want to do that?

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